In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, the prime minister of Israel called for the international community, meaning the United States, to draw a red line against Iran's nuclear program. Benjamin Netanyahu did not spell out what that line is, but the clear implication was military action by next spring or summer if Iran does not abandon its uranium enrichment. The United States must categorically reject this invitation to make war on Iran.
The United States has been in a similar position before. In the run-up to the Iraq war, Israel and the neocons in the Bush administration argued that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the existence of both Israel and the United States. Neither of those claims was true, but the United States invaded Iraq anyway. Though U.S. forces destroyed Saddam's regime in short order, the tremendous price in American blood and treasure through nine years of fighting did not bring peace or a working democracy to Iraq. In fact, the winner of the war in Iraq was Iran, because the American invasion replaced an implacable enemy of Iran with a weak Shiite regime that Iran can influence.
The United States should not be drawn into a similar mistake now. It should have learned the limits of military power, especially when that power is misapplied.
Netanyahu is right that Iran is an existential threat to Israel. The ayatollahs call for Israel's destruction all the time, and they sponsor surrogates in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories who attack the Jewish state. But he is not correct that Iran, if it obtained a nuclear weapon, would not be deterred from using it by Israel's formidable nuclear arsenal. He argues that Islamist religious fanatics cannot be deterred the way the secular Marxists of the Soviet Union were prevented from using nuclear weapons against the United States during the Cold War. But where is his evidence? Given Israel's robust nuclear arsenal, a nuclear attack by Iran or one of its surrogates against Israel would be suicidal for Iran.
In fact, the most rational explanation for why Iran would pursue a nuclear bomb is to create its own deterrent against attack by Israel and the United States. While it appears that Iran is enriching uranium with the goal of producing a bomb, even that is speculation. The evidence is not conclusive.
The United States should continue to pursue a diplomatic solution. The hard truth is that nuclear technology cannot be uninvented, and eventually it will spread to any nation that wants it badly enough. Nuclear powers that threaten such nations with war to induce them to give up a nuclear deterrent of their own are arguing against themselves.